The Republican National Convention will shine a bright spotlight not only on the nominating process, but on Cleveland as well.
But, how bright a light do we want on some major eyesores on well-traveled routes into downtown?
It didn't take us long to find numerous areas that need a ton of attention. For example, the immediate road around Quicken Loans Arena, which will be the home of many RNC events on Huron Avenue, was in rough shape and nearby East 4th Street had bad patches.
Then there's the graffiti. It’s on downtown buildings with much more that can be seen along Interstate 90 in both directions and various spots in-between.
Plus, there are old, worn-down buildings like the former Cleveland Aquarium at Gordon Park that can be seen from the highway.
"There's not been any discussions about this corridor…at all," said Cleveland City Councilman Jeffery Johnson. He represents the ward where the aquarium sits as it's falling apart with spray paint on it.
We told him about concerns raised with the building.
“We'll clean it up now that you've let me know about it."
He also represents an area even more visible to a highly-traveled route to downtown along I-90.
We obtained an email sent in March from Councilman Mike Polensek to Public Works Director Michael Cox, the city’s Chief Operating Officer Darnell Brown, and others pointing out "the growing concern over the image and perception this is having on the community."
The email also singled out "the RNC coming in July" and how there's a "need to step up....and get this graffiti removed."
The buildings were private, but it's a very public problem. We asked Johnson if he could notify the businesses and building owners about the problem. “I'm going to bring in more of an authoritative (approach…I’ll contact) Building and Housing," he told us.
After we tried to get ahold of businesses in question, we did walk into one of the buildings where employees told us that the city was going to paint over the graffiti next week.
“We haven't given graffiti any heightened awareness,” said Cleveland’s Director of Building and Housing Ron O’Leary. He told us his department is focusing more on property owners being affected by security concerns surrounding the RNC.
Building and Housing works with community development corporations that get sent out initially to deal with graffiti issues. So, what about the areas of graffiti we told them about?
“We've put the complaints in and I'll follow up when the complaint goes out to the CDC,” said O’Leary. If the first line of defense doesn’t work, then the department sends out city inspectors who can hand out notices or fines. The property owners have 30 days to respond.
And, as if the politicians didn't do enough trash talking, we have to talk about our own trash. Along I-71, we found all kinds of trash strewn about.
"It's a problem that is completely preventable," said ODOT Spokesperson from District 12 Amanda McFarland about the trash not only along I-71 but the massive pile-ups on I-90 here it looks like a dumping ground.
McFarland told us ODOT is partnering with groups like Keep Ohio Beautiful, Keep Cleveland Beautiful, and others for a huge June 4 clean-up on the highways and in neighborhoods.
They're looking for volunteers and using other resources. “We've also utilized court community service programs, inmate programs (every week to help)." If you would like to volunteer, here's a link www.handsonneo.org/cleanupcleveland that will help you sign-up for the June 4th clean-up event.
And what about the overgrowth around Cleveland welcoming visitors along the highways? Many trees have been cut and left. McFarland told us that's because there are only certain times of the year that trees can be cut because of environmental and animal reasons then "there will be times when crews will come back through and clean that up more. They can chip it up at any time."
We called the city of Tampa which hosted the 2012 RNC and it spent about $60,000 fixing up infrastructure around the city.
And according to the Tampa Tribune, a University of Tampa study revealed its convention drew a $404 million impact for the region.
Some Clevelanders are wondering what our impact will be if we don't put our best foot forward for those stepping into town for the RNC. "Maybe we could have them drive up and down some of the streets with potholes that I have to drive down and you have to drive down,” said Rob Kleidman.
Building and Housing Director O’Leary told us the best way to submit a complaint is through email. Here’s a direct link to that form. It’s also not a bad idea to call your council person and voice your concerns so he/she is aware of the issue as well.